When I first read the reviews on Amazon for Nurture Shock, I was immediately intrigued. I’m not much of a book reader when it comes to wanting parenting advice, but this book seemed different from the get-go, and now I’m stoked I spent the $10. Each chapter covers a different aspect of parenting and life in general – from talking about race, to relationships with siblings – and every single chapter had sections that made me really think about why we do (or DON’T do) the things we do. I’d say that’s a good thing, whether or not you agree with the concepts and ideas presented in the pages. I could write a dozen different posts in response to this book, so today I’ll try to just focus on one chapter that really intrigued me, and maybe I’ll write more in the future. 🙂
I’ll admit it, in Stella’s short life, I’ve said phrases like “great job!” and “you’re so smart!” more times than I could count, and I never thought much of it until I read this book. Then I started reading the first chapter, “The Inverse Power of Praise,” and one could consider my world rocked.
I was one of the smart kids. I mean, I am a smart person, but growing up, I was one of the smart kids. I used to think that was a huge benefit in my life, but through the years, I have time and time again been so damn afraid of failing that I haven’t even attempted multiple new experiences…and now I’m not so sure. I don’t specifically remember the lines of encouragement my parents used in my childhood, but I definitely always knew I was smart. I don’t think my issues were as extreme as some of the examples used in this book (I didn’t drop out of classes to avoid a bad grade, for example)… but by the time I hit college, I definitely tried to skirt around taking a class that might negatively affect my GPA. I didn’t do this because of the GPA, per se, but because I was afraid of not looking smart. *sigh*
That’s why the following quote really struck me:
“Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
Say what? Praise the effort, not the result?
That’s such a simple concept. But so hard to do. But it makes SENSE to me!
The book isn’t saying to never praise your child – rather that praise needs to be specific and genuine, and that you should focus more on praising the effort put forth by the child instead of the end result. Again, this makes SENSE to me.
Later on in the chapter, another “professional” who has studied this issue weighs in with this:
Baumeister has come to believe the continued appeal of self-esteem is largely tied to parents’ pride in their children’s accomplishments: it’s so strong that “when they praise their kids, it’s not that far from praising themselves.”
Phew. I could totally see that in myself. If my child is a successful human being, it’s partly because of the awesome parenting behind the child, right? Err… not? I hope to never force my dreams on my child, but I had never thought of praise for my child possibly being a reflection of my own self esteem. Interesting. SO, to answer one of the book club discussion prompts:
What do you think of the concept of praising for effort instead of results? Do you think you can integrate this with your own parenting style? Do you believe it works/makes a difference?
I think this is an AWESOME concept. I think it will be incredibly hard to institute (since reading this book a few weeks ago, I have tried and tried to make a conscious effort to praise the effort, but WOW it is hard). However, I do want to attempt to follow this, because I do believe that it works, and I do believe that it will make a difference.
I want Stella to be proud of how hard she tried – and not be afraid of failing if she tries.
I want Stella to be inspired to try, try again – and feel exhilarated by challenge, not defeated.
I want Stella to be smart, and kind, and loving… but I don’t want it to go to her head.
I want the best for my child, because I’m her Mom, and because I love her.
Buy the book. Read it. I think you’ll love it!
(and in the meantime, check out other bloggers reviews here)